Fuel, Heating & Cooling FAQs

How To Program Your Thermostat

Thermostats have come a long way in the last few years. It used to be that the only available option was the non-digital mechanical thermostat, usually in a dial format. Today many (if not all) homes have at least one digital thermostat, and some of us have thermostats that are remotely connected to the heating system, or talk to us, or can react to voice commands, or can even be controlled remotely via a smart phone.

But, whatever the technology, all thermostats share two things in common: they are designed to control the temperature in our home and they do so by reading the actual temperature in our home.

A thermostat displays two temperatures on its dial/screen:

  1. The reading of the actual temperature in the room
  2. The setting for the desired temperature

If the thermostat (and its associated system) is working correctly the two temperature readings will be the same (or close).

A thermostat has a 2–4°F differential. This means that when the actual temperature falls to 2–4°F below the desired temperature, the thermostat triggers the heating system to come on and provide heat. The heat will run until the actual temperature rises to 2–4°F above the desired temperature at which point the thermostat triggers the heating system to shut off.

In some instances a heating system may not keep up with the desired temperature and will, therefore, never shut off. This can be for one of two reasons:

  1. The heating system isn’t big enough
  2. There is insufficient baseboard, radiators, or duct work to distribute the heat

Sometimes, if the outside temperature is very cold, even an adequate heating system will not keep up, but once the outside temperature rises slightly, the house will “recover” and the heating and distribution systems will once again satisfy the thermostat.

Most of us forget to turn the heat down when we go to bed or out to work or away for a few days. With the older dial thermostats we are required to manually adjust the dial on every occasion—just one more thing to think about in our already-busy lives. But with a programmable thermostat, once we’ve set it up to do what we want, it remembers for us.

Ideally, when we are in bed or not at home we want to set back our desired temperature 4–5F° below the normal setting. By this one simple act we can save up to 5 or even 10% of our annual fuel costs.

Why only 5°F? Because if you set the temperature back more than that it can take exponentially more energy to bring the actual temperature back up to the normal desired temperature and thereby cancel out the energy savings you just made. The only time you should setback the desired temperature more than 5°F is if you are going to be away for a longer period of time. Also, if you have radiant heat we recommend setting back no more than 2°F as it takes longer for radiant heat to return a space to its desired temperature. Some radiant heat users use only one heat setting and make no adjustments through the 24-hour cycle.

When programming your thermostat add some extra minutes to allow the actual temperature to adjust to the desired—program the thermostat to drop down 30 minutes before you head up to bed, it’ll be at least 30 or more before the actual temperature gets there. Similarly, program the thermostat to come back up 30 minutes before the alarm goes off in the morning … that way it’ll be toasty warm when you get up and, if your hot water runs off the heating system your shower may be a few degrees hotter too.

Things to remember about your thermostat:

  1. The location of your thermostat and what is it near

    Your thermostat reads the air temperature in its immediate vicinity. If it’s in a cold and drafty hallway with no heat then the actual air temperature will likely never come up to the desired temperature and so the thermostat will never shut off the heat supply. Conversely if the thermostat is located above or below a heat source the air immediately around it will come up to temperature faster than the rest of the zone and your room will never be warm. A heat source could be as little as a reading lamp with a 100 watt bulb standing beneath the thermostat!

  2. Reset the time on your thermostat in the fall and spring

    Your thermostat needs you to tell it what the time is: Remember to reset the time when the clocks change fall and spring.

  3. Check the batteries in your thermostat

    Even if your thermostat is hard-wired into the heating system it will almost certainly be battery-powered. It’s good to get into the habit of changing the batteries a couple of times a year, for instance when we change the clocks fall and spring.

How should you program your thermostat

With a programmable thermostat you can lower and raise the temperature in your property according to your habits.

Lowering the temperature is known as applying a “set back.” As a rough rule of thumb our setback should be about 4° below the desired ambient temperature when you are home and awake. Thus, if you like the ambient temperature when you are home to be 68°F, then set it back to 64° for those hours of the day when you are not at home.

program your thermostat for heating and cooling Let’s say you like to sleep with the temperature at 64°F but you like to be awake with the temperature at 68°F. You get up at 5:45 am. Set your thermostat to 64°F for the overnight but program it to change at 5:00 am to 68°F. That way it will be warm when you get up.

program your thermostat for heating and cooling 1 You leave for work at 7:00 am—program your thermostat to 64°F at 6:30 am (your house temperature will not fall all the way to 64°F until you are out the door and off to work).

program your thermostat for heating and cooling 2 You return home at 6:00 pm—program your thermostat back to 68°F at 5:30 pm so that it’s nice and cozy when you walk in the door.

program your thermostat for heating and cooling 3 You go to bed at 10:00 pm—program your thermostat to 64°F at 9:30 pm.

program your thermostat for heating and cooling 4 You stay home on the weekends. Program your thermostat to 68°F for the day and 64° for the overnights—adjust the times for later bedtimes and later morning rising.

program your thermostat for heating and cooling 5 Don’t forget that you can override any programmed setting just by manually adjusting the temperature up or down. The thermostat will work to that temperature setting until the next programmed setting takes over.

program your thermostat for heating and cooling 6 Finally—if your thermostat has multiple settings: “heat,” “cool,” or “off,” make sure you’re on the right setting for your season!

A boiler heats water, which is then circulated to your baseboards or radiators. A furnace heats air, which is then circulated through ductwork and registers.
If you have radiators or baseboards for heat, you have a boiler. If you have ductwork with outlets and returns, you have a furnace.
“Consumables” cover everything from gloves to spill mats, sprays, rags, solder, caulking, lubricants, etc. Rather than add a line item for each and every small item used by a tech during a service call, we charge a flat rate for “consumables.”
We offer a thorough, comprehensive cleaning and tune up. We truly believe it’s the best Preventive Maintenance available in our region. For a complete step-by-step description of what we do, click here.
In the spring and summer. The heating season takes its toll on any heating system and, no matter how efficiently it runs, a heating system will have some build up of residue by the end of the season. In the spring, just after the system is switched off, the residue is still soft and relatively easy to clean off, but the longer it’s left the harder it sets and so the trickier it is to remove. Added to that if you clean the system when you don’t actually need it you’ll have time to fit a preventive maintenance into your (and our) schedule.
We recommend that filters on heating systems are replaced at least once a year—clean filters promote good air flow and contribute to the efficiency of your system. If you have a combined heating and air conditioning system, you should change the filters twice a year: once before the heating season and once before the cooling season.
If it’s in a dry environment an oil tank should last between 25 and 30 years. If you have an annual preventive maintenance with us your oil tank will be inspected along with the rest of the system. Also, oil tanks can be insured. Ultrasonic testing measures the tank-metal thickness so that you can be proactive in replacing it—better to replace it before it starts leaking than after! With a TankSure Plan you pay a $65 annual premium and if you ever need to replace your oil tank you’ll be covered up to $2,500—the average cost to replace an oil tank. For more on this check out our blog, Why you need to insure your oil tank.
A well-maintained and regularly serviced steel boiler should last for between 20 and 25 years; a cast-iron boiler should last for between 25 and 30 years.
A well-maintained and regularly serviced furnace should last between 15 and 20 years.
There isn’t one! With the new instant hot-water systems, when a hot-water fawcet is opened somewhere in the house, cold water is fed into the heater, where it passes over the heating coil, is brought up to the desired temperature and then directed to the open fawcet. You never heat water that you don’t need, nor is hot water left to stand in a storage tank only to lose its heat and waste the energy.
No. Whether it’s full or empty an oil tank will sound hollow when you tap on it.
Many people think that automatic delivery means that we come to your property every month and top you off whether you need fuel or not. We don’t! That would be annoying to you and very inefficient to us. Instead, we use a formula that takes into account your typical usage and the average temperature during the weeks since your last delivery. We do our best to maximize our delivery efficiency by only visiting your property when you need us to! For a full explanation visit our blog, Automatic Deliveries and Degree Days.
There are many variables that affect how much fuel you will use over the course of a winter: How well insulated is your home? How big is your home? How warm do you like your home? Is the fuel you burn just used for heat, or is it also used for your hot water or your cook stove? Nevertheless, there are average estimated parameters for fuel usage according to the square footage of your house. You can find a chart by clicking here [link to blog How Much Fuel?]. If your fuel usage is in the ballpark of the chart’s figures then you’re probably all set. But if you’re way off you might like to have us come check on your system—it may be that it needs cleaning, tuning up, or some other service work.
Not exactly—heating oil and diesel are the same base product but they have different additives and different tax requirements. Thus, it is illegal to use heating oil in your diesel car However, if you’re out of oil for your heating system and you need some gallons to get you through the night or the weekend, you could avoid the extra emergency call-out fee, by buying some gallons of diesel from your local gas station and putting them in your oil tank. That’s quite legal and it won’t harm your tank or your heating system in any way.
No, we do install the propane gas piping to generators and make the associated connections from propane to generator but we do not install generators. We can recommend local companies to do that for you.
No, we will service the propane gas piping, connections, and supply to a generator, but we do not service the generators themselves. We can recommend local companies to do that for you.
Although it seems like you should be one of the lucky ones during a power outage, unfortunately a propane-fired hot-water heater still needs electricity to work: there is an electronic ignition, a circulator to push the water up to higher floors, and some heaters have a power-assisted exhaust ventilation, which also requires electricity.
Sadly, although your heat runs on propane, it still needs electricity to work the electronic ignition. Also, if you have a boiler, the circulator pump requires electricity, and if you have a furnace, the fan requires electricity. Finally, some heaters have a power-assisted exhaust ventilation set-up, which also requires electricity.
Yes, but you will have to light it manually. It’s best to use a long-necked lighter with safety catch, or an old-fashioned flint-spark torch igniter.
For step by step directions on how to read your propane tank gauge, click here.
Propane is delivered and stored as a liquid. However, propane boils at a temperature of -44°F, so inside the truck and tank the liquid propane is boiling and turning to vapor (or gas). Propane gas has a greater volume than propane liquid and so requires more space. Because of this, a propane tank is never filled to 100%—there must always be space into which the liquid propane can evaporate; as it does so, it forms a pocket of gas at the top of the tank. It is this gas that will be used when you open a valve on an appliance in your home. As the gas is drawn off, so the liquid within the tank boils faster and more gas is produced to replace the gas that has been removed.
The flex programs that we offer on oil accounts provide a price-cap system: if market price on the day of delivery is higher than your contracted price, you’re all set; but if market price is lower on the day or delivery, you’ll be billed at that lower price. But why aren’t these programs offered for propane accounts? The flex programs call for customers to take out a policy known as Downside Insurance. This insurance is offered by the fuel-oil industry and as yet no wholesale propane companies offer such insurance. The good news is that propane prices do tend to be less volatile than oil prices.
We don’t have a bulk storage tank. When you take out a fuel-purchasing program with us you sign a contract between yourself and our company in which you agree to buy a set number of gallons at a certain price and we agree to deliver those gallons to you for that price. In just the same way we sign a contract with the wholesaler in which we agree to buy a set number of gallons at a certain price and the wholesaler agrees to sell us those gallons at that price. However, because we will not be taking those gallons until some time in the fall or winter, the wholesaler gives us a price that is not today’s market price, but is a forecast ‘futures’ price. The system works because all parties—you, us, the wholesaler—sign binding contracts.
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.
No, air conditioning runs on electricity and requires no other fuel to work.
A well-maintained and regularly serviced Air Conditioning unit should last between 12 and 15 years. An Air Conditioning system should be serviced on an annual basis. Click here to see what’s involved in our Air Conditioning Preventive Maintenance program.
Yes! If you already have forced-air heating you can utilize the same ductwork and furnace for AC. If you have a hot-water boiler and 2 x 6 wall studs, you could install ductwork and an air handler. If you have a hot-water boiler but no stud pockets you can install an air-handler in the basement and another in the attic; or you might be able to install high-velocity flex tubing. Finally, if none of the above seem like a good idea you can install wall-mounted ductless split cooling/heating pumps. For more information check our our blog, How to Install Central Air in your Older Home.
Propane is a non-toxic and qualifying alternative fuel producing fewer greenhouse gases than all other fossil fuels except natural gas. Propane is a gas, but for delivery and storage, it’s compressed into a transportable liquid. If it leaks into the air it will instantly vaporize, but because propane is heavier than air it will sink and pool at the lowest point—that’s why propane should never be stored inside or in an enclosed space.
Propane is non-toxic and non-poisonous so it can be stored underground without fear of contamination to aquifers or soil. Propane contains 50% less carbon than fuel oil and is a qualifying alternative fuel eligible for various federal tax incentives under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
In its natural state propane is odorless, but for safety a foul-smelling gas called Ethyl Mercaptan is added. That way, if there’s a leak we can smell it.
90% of US propane is produced domestically while 7% comes from Canada via pipe or rail. It’s stored underground in huge salt caverns in Texas and Kansas before being piped throughout the country. Much of our local propane comes from the Sea-3 terminal in Newington, NH.
Propane is strictly regulated and coded in association with the National Fire Protection Association. It will not ignite when combined with air unless the source of ignition reaches at least 940°F (as a comparison, gasoline will ignite when the source of ignition reaches 430–500°F). If propane leaks it will vaporize. If it leaks you will smell it.
Propane can be used with either a furnace or a boiler.
No. Wholesale fuel suppliers such as Sprague and Irving are allowed to add up to 5% biofuel to their #2 fuel without disclosing it to the consumer. Because it is up to the wholesaler they will add more or less biofuel depending on the market price of biofuel versus #2 fuel—if bio is less expensive, they’ll add more, but there are times when biofuel is more expensive than #2 and at those times they will add no biofuel.
B5 is 5% bio to 95% #2 fuel oil; B20 is 20% bio to 80% #2 fuel oil.
No. We offer B5 and B20. Both blends can be used in oil-burning systems without modification to the system and most manufacturer warranties will be unaffected—although if you are going to use B20 you should check with your manfacturer before you do.
Our Bioheat is a mixed blend of #2 fuel oil and Biofuel. We buy the Biofuel from two local companies: White Mountain Biodiesel in North Haverhill, NH, and Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland, ME. It’s all locally sourced recycled vegetable cooking oils.
No! Although our biofuel is, indeed, manufactured from recycled cooking oils, it has gone through a very thorough refining process. By the time it comes to us it is clear of food particles and odors!
If you use B5 (5% biofuel and 95% #2 fuel oil) you’ll be reducing your home’s heating CO2 emissions by 3.92%. If you use B20 (20% biofuel) you’ll be reducing your home’s heating CO2 emissions by 15.69%.
Quite the opposite. Biofuel actually has a cleansing quality that will clean your oil tank and lines and thus should enhance the longevity of your heating system.
In 2013 Lamprey Energy took over the management of Simply Green Biofuels. We did offer biofuels before 2013 but with the arrival of Simply Green in our stable it became sensible to use their infrastructure for our biofuel delivery going forward.
At this time we only sell biodiesel for commercial uses: off-road biodiesel for use in landscaping, excavating, generators, farm equipment, etc; biodiesel for truck fleets; biomarine for marine diesel engines. For more about our biodiesel click here [link to diesel pages]. However, you can definitely use biodiesel in a diesel-engine car.
No. In New England, winter temperatures can drop well below freezing so it’s never a good idea to turn off the heat—an unheated house can quickly see interior temperatures plummet leading to frozen pipes, possible burst pipes, and other problems. Also, it will take exponentially more fuel to bring the house back up to temperature than you will save by turning the heat off.
Even though you shouldn’t turn off your heat when you leave for the day, it is an energy-saving idea to set the thermostat back to a lower temperature. You should, however, be cautious: don’t lower it too much, either during the day or overnight, because you’ll use exponentially more energy to bring the house back up to temperature than you saved by keeping it low. Honeywell, manufacturer of some of the most popular thermostats on the market, recommends turning the dial down no more than 7 degrees for 7 hours at a time to maximize your energy savings. For more energy-saving tips check out our blog, Energy Saving Tips for your Home.
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